If happy cows produce better milk, and happy chickens produce better eggs... what about happy humans?

Some time ago, I don't recall precisely when, I started being more interested in eating meat that was free range, pasture reared, eating a particular diet. I would occasionally eat a steak from the kind of cow that had been massaged in its field. I started seeking fish that was line caught, wild rather than farmed. The eggs we eat at home are those farm reared, free range organic ones with a fancy name and particularly orange yolks. 

Why do I do all of that? Well, I happen to believe that happy animals result in better tasting and healthier milk/eggs/meat... and I'd rather animals were well looked after because... well, why wouldn't you?  

Legislation has dictated that farms have to meet certain standards of welfare throughout the process, but determining whether you're going to follow the law, meet minimum standards or indeed go wholeheartedly into creating a happy environment is a matter of philosophy.  

Take a look at this short video... Happy Cows. (But don't forget to come back and finish the article). 

Here's a guy, completely and utterly, philosophically aligned to the belief that his job as a dairy farmer is to create the conditions in which the animals in his care really matter - the happier and healthier they are - the better his business performs. Seems like a great manager to me.  

So what about humans? Why is it seemingly so difficult to accept that the best thing to do, and the right thing to do is to focus on happiness at work for employees?  

Almost every day I face the questions from prospective clients and partners alike 

  • What's the business case for happiness?  
  • What's the ROI? We need an ROI!!! 
  • What's the shareholder return??? 

Of course, I don't really mind these questions... and because it's business I somewhat expect them but it always seems to me to be a bit of a nonsense.  

The relationship between happier people and performance is so well proven that it can't possibly be about evidence... it must be a question of mindset or philosophy? 

Perhaps the question I should be asking is... "philosophically speaking, which are you... Battery Farming or Free Range?"... it's almost that simple 

 "philosophically speaking, which are you... Battery Farming or Free Range?"

As a manager, how easily would you identify with the sentiment of the farmer in the video above?  

I talk a lot about creating the conditions for happier work... it isn't rocket science but it does take a bit of effort and focus, and whilst hardly any firms I speak to would identify their own employment and management practices with battery farming, they're so far from happy cows it's not funny! 

 ...most companies are so far away from happy cows... it isn't funny!

We all know people who work where they're not able to get up and make themselves a coffee because they've got to be at their desk... where toilet breaks are monitored... where being at your desk for longest is still the objective (regardless of what you're doing when you're there) and where the primary belief is to "JFDI"... success is primarily about endurance (or should I say enduring)  

If you were to think about creating the right physical environment for happiness at work... you wouldn't be a million miles wrong if you actually thought about cows and then applied it to humans... natural light, warmth, shelter, access to food and water, contact with their herd (colleagues), to feel safe (from outside threat as well as injury or harm where they are)... throw in broadband, a mobile phone and a laptop and that would suffice for most human teams. 

What else might people want? (Let me turn to our 5 Conditions for Happiness) 

  • To do something that matters for a company that is doing something meaningful for society/the world i.e. A purpose-led company.  
  • To work in a high-trust environment (flowing both upwards and downwards).  
  • To have a degree of control over how, where and when they do what they need to do to fulfil their objectives (Autonomy) 
  • To feel supported by their colleagues and management alike - emotionally (kind, caring and civil) and practically (right tools, environment etc). 
  • To be growing, progressing, learning, developing... my life is moving forwards (development) 

What you can see is that there is nothing in here that isn't possible as a result of a bit of effort - I'm not saying it's easy, as much of it is behavioural - but this isn't like a digital transformation where you need to find endless pots of money to make change everything you do... what we're talking about here is absolutely a philosophical question. 

If you decide that you want to be the kind of farm with happy cows... well, there's likely to be a bit of work ahead of you but you'll find plenty of people willing to help - who doesn't want to be happy? 

And once you've got the ball rolling... just imagine the possibilities!  

If you like this video, don't forget to click "Like" and "Share" or indeed use the comments to tell me what you think!  

Happiness Lab helps companies to understand, measure and improve happiness in the workplace - find out more at: happinesslab.com


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